Surprisingly sugary cereals

Breakfast cereals are a battleground in my family.

Faced with supermarket shelves groaning with boxes of cereal, my children focus unswervingly on anything stuffed with sugar, covered in cartoons or promising toys, and ideally all three.

When did chocolate become a breakfast thing anyway? Cocopops, Cookie Crisp, Nesquik Chocolate Cereal, Krave, they’re all at it. Now you can even buy Weetabix with chocolate, damn it.

Weetabix with chocolate? Traitors.

I get to play the part of mean mummy, ranting on about sugar content and sneaking in cheaper own-brand or value versions.

I try to steer my children in the direction of healthier alternatives like porridge, rice krispies, weetabix and shredded wheat, even though I appreciate shredded wheat is the rough equivalent of eating a bowl of thatched roof with milk on it. They are prepared to eat porridge sometimes – provided it’s doused in golden syrup, sigh.

Anyway, last month we’d bought an unusually large range of cereals, suckered in by a Kellogg’s offer including free tickets to Legoland.  Spurred on by a particularly irritating Krave advert (cereal spawn of Pepperami, I reckon), I actually had a look at the labels.

I got my daughter to help order the boxes based on their sugar content, because yes it’s all fun in the mornings round here, and was surprised at the results.

Our cereals, from least sugar on the left, to tooth-bustingly crammed with sugar on the right

Sure, I’d guessed that the porridge oats and Sainsburys Basics Breakfast Wholewheat Biscuits hiding on the left might have the lowest sugar content.

Plus I wasn’t under any illusions that my husband’s favourite honey nut cornflakes on the far right might be high in sugar, given the give-away honey reference. But wow, 36.3g per 100g? That’s more than a third of the box.

I was actively surprised that Fruit & Fibre had the second highest sugar content, even more than the Rice Krispy Multigrain Shapes bought under pester power. It’s got fruit, it’s got fibre, it sounds so healthy? Turns out it packs out a quarter of the box with sugar: 24g per 100g cereal. No wonder my daughter is prepared to eat it.

I was also quite surprised that the worthy Bear Alpha Bites cereals, bought for their oh-so-educational letter shapes and fridge magnets, have pretty much the same sugar content as Shreddies, all around 15g of sugar per 100g cereal. Still not sure how my children will chow down Shreddies as a snack, but prove resistant to the “monstrously healthy” Alpha Bites, when they should have the same sweetness.

(Maybe it’s because I’ve just read that Alpha Bites include coconut blossom nectar instead of refined sugar, and their taste buds are offended by the ridiculousness. Coconut blossom nectar? On the box it says “no added nonsense” – surely the manufacturer could be sued under the Trade Descriptions Act?)

So for all you fact fiends out there, the sugar contents per 100g were:

1.1g    Quaker Oats (tiny)
2.5g    Sainsbury’s Basics Breakfast Wholewheat Biscuits(also tiny)
10g     Kellogg’s Rice Krispies (bit of a leap there)
14.9g  {Nestle Shreddies
15g     {Bear Alpha Bites Cocoa (these three are all about the same)
15g     {Bear Alpha Bites Multigrain
21g     Rice Krispies Multigrain Shapes (another leap)
24g     Kellogg’s Fruit & Fibre (a quarter sugar, really?)
36.3g  Sainsbury’s Honey Nut Corn Flakes (so much sugar, how do they fit in any cornflakes?)

Once these boxes ran out, we rang the changes with some different options.

Pumpkins: better as book ends than breakfast

I stuck with the porridge and Basics version of Weetabix, but bought ordinary cornflakes instead of the honey nut version, which slashed the sugar content from 36.3g to 7.2g per 100g.

Turns out some supermarket own brand cereals have less sugar than the branded alternatives, so for example Sainsbury’s Wholegrain Fruit & Fibre has 15% less sugar than the Kellogg’s version, still high at 20.4g but less than 24g per 100g.

Doesn’t always work though: Sainsbury’s Wholegrain Malties have 16g sugar / 100g, very slightly more than Nestle Shreddies’ 15g.

(And my daughter still snuck Nestle Cheerios into the trolley, with 20.9g sugar /100g. At least they were on offer at half price).

Maybe the moral of the tale is just that I shouldn’t take my children shopping.


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  1. 26th October 2015 / 8:22 am

    Terrible isn't it. Could try not having them shopping, if so, get rid of the outside boxes so they don't know what brand they are eating.

  2. 26th October 2015 / 9:11 am

    And this is why we rarely have cereals in the house. Currently just a box of a supermarkets own fruity shreddie type things for my Lovely Hubby for when his sweet tooth comes a calling.

    Usually breakfast for me is a Nutriblast or yoghurt and banana, my LH will have either the cereal or home made muesli or toast. Weekend breakfasts are nearly always egg based with bacon thrown in for LH, I don't eat meat.

    But of course we have the HUGE advantage of grown up children who no doubt stock their own cupboards with sugary cereal but can't pester us to do the same. When they come to visit they get bacon butties for breakfast which they love.

    The advertisers are SO clever the way they gear everything towards intensifying pester power aren't they, and of course the positioning in the supermarkets with the packaging aimed directly at child height 🙁

  3. 28th October 2015 / 4:21 pm

    I do the mean mummy thing over breakfast cereal – Weetabix (supermarket own) or porridge. Cornflakes are a weekend treat! Yes, I am that mean.

  4. Petrometro
    10th May 2018 / 2:00 pm

    Multigrain shapes.
    Calories burnt for a 34g portion
    Protein = 4 calories/gram
    Sugar/carbs = 4g/gram
    Fat = 9cal/gram

    Calories 130 Sodium 125 mg
    Total Fat 2 g Potassium 0 mg
    Saturated 0 g Total Carbs 30 g
    Polyunsaturated 0 g Dietary Fiber 3 g
    Monounsaturated 0 g Sugars 7 g
    averageCholesterol 0 mg

    so based on the above portion the percentage of fat is 9×2/130 = 13.84% GOOD
    sugar is 4×30/130 = 21.53% AVERAGE
    The percentages remain the same; for fat in food work on 25% and sugar/protein 20% as being the norm.

  5. Sophie winley
    1st July 2020 / 8:03 pm

    Very helpful thank you so much! You’re very kind to have done all the research for us tired mums

    • Faith
      2nd July 2020 / 7:54 am

      Thanks Sophie! I was really surprised at the sugar levels in some cereals.

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